Mass General event draws group dedicated to improving mental health care and furthering research.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts spoke about his family’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease at the MGH Leadership Council for Psychiatry Sixth Annual Visiting Day on June 5, 2017.

His mother suffered from the brain disease for 10 years. When she no longer recognized him, a friend asked why he continued to visit her if she did not know who he was. He told the friend, “because I know who she is.”

The governor’s experience was one many in attendance could relate to as their families and friends also had been touched by mental illness. His speech and the time he spent meeting with council members were highlights of the event.

MGH Leadership Council for Psychiatry members have been a force in raising awareness of mental illness and play a critical role in raising precious funds.

The 2017 visiting day, held at the Harvard Club, featured six seminars, a luncheon where patients and physicians shared their stories and an announcement of philanthropic achievement. Speakers included Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital; Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, Mass General’s psychiatrist-in-chief; and Jeffrey C. Huffman, MD, associate chief of Psychiatry for Clinical Services at Mass General.

Patients Shared Their Stories

Mass General psychiatrists, psychologists and specialists on panels addressed the subjects of divorce, psychosis, anxiety in children, suicide and aging and cognitive impairment.

Patients shared their stories of living with mental illness and talked about the compassionate care and hope for their future that they received from their Mass General physicians and specialists.

Council members gather for the annual event — one of the two times each year that they come together as a group. Some traveled from across the country. The current council has 89 active participants who live in 20 different states and 33 honorary members.

These individuals have been a force in raising awareness of mental illness and play a critical role in raising precious funds, Dr. Rosenbaum says. Since its founding in 2007, council members have contributed or raised more than $36 million to support Mass General’s efforts to improve mental health care and advance research.

“The mission is more important than ever.”

Celebrating an Endowed Chair

At this year’s Visiting Day, members celebrated the successful completion of fundraising for an endowed chair for Ellen Braaten, PhD, director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program. Dr. Braaten is an expert in pediatric neuropsychological and psychological assessment, particularly in the areas of assessing learning disabilities and attention disorders.

The new chair was the seventh funded solely or largely by council members. It was made possible by the contributions of 17 donors, (12 from leadership council families) and was matched by the Kessler Family Foundation.

“The mission is more important than ever,” Carroll M. Carpenter and Michele Kessler, event co-chairs, wrote in a letter to attendees. “Our communities are ravaged by opioid addiction. We are susceptible to violence, both here and abroad. Often, unrecognized and untreated mental illness is at the heart of these tragedies. It is critical that we work together to raise awareness and contribute in any way possible to help make quality mental health care available and accessible to those who are in need of care.”

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